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The Alpha and the Zaha

Ian Martin
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Ian Martin processes grief, and judges some beach huts

MONDAY A memorial service today for a truly great architect. It will of course be brimming with truly lesser architects. Some have appeared in the media over the last week, their memories of Z scattered with personal pronouns.

Gorgeous images of her breathtaking creations fill our heads. Publicly, everyone remembers how they too saw her latent genius in the 1980s or, if they were very clever, the 1970s. Privately, everyone’s redesigning their secular notion of ‘death as bad luck’ to give it a more organic, free-flowing feel. And grimly assessing their own immortality.

Alas I wasn’t invited to the service, having years ago concocted an oppositional view for the Creative on Sunday that she was ‘not that good, although I suppose quite good for a lady architect’. Now she’s no longer with us I’d like to think we would both laugh at this now.

I ask at this time to be remembered instead for having said she gave patriarchitecture the kick in the balls it so deeply deserved.

TUESDAY Start conceptual work for my Umbrage Museum in Liverpool. It’s supposed to be ‘site-specific’ so I pause my initial sketches, check on Google Maps that I’ve got the right postcode for the city’s cultural quarter, then carry on.

WEDNESDAY To the Royal Institute for the Pop-Uption of British Architects, which is convulsed by one of its regular multiple identity crises. It’s a bit pathetic, but I’m on quite a competitive consultancy day rate. Lady Jean Donught, the institute’s president, is waiting for me in the Ned Stark Hall. ‘Topline!’ she barks. She’s been watching a lot of stuff on HBO recently. Oh, Lady Jean may dress as a medieval warrior queen but she doesn’t intimidate me. I was at parties here decades ago that would make her innards curl.

I suggest that pop-uption has now transmuted into an ever-expanding matrix of possibility. That ought to be reflected in the appointment of her new Council of Ambassadors – with admirable decisiveness she had the last lot put to death. Her eyes glitter.

‘Yes! We must have Ambassadors for Start-Uption and Do-Uption, as well as Joined-Uption! Barbara, come!’ A falcon lands from nowhere on her jewelled gauntlet and out they sweep. ‘Yes, my pretty! Make-Uption, perhaps, and Do-Uption! Punch-Uption? What’s that, Barbara? Piss-Uption and Fuck-Uption? Ha ha, I don’t THINK so!’

THURSDAY Delighted to be a judge for the annual Tamworth Jazzy Urban Beach Hut competition. As usual, this thriving regional business hub and leisure destination will be going full Europolitan this summer, with a sandy boulevard and imported weather. The anonymised longlist is a marvellous spectrum of designs responding with gusto to the adjective ‘jazzy’.  

  • The Wigwham – a jazzy beach marquee made of multi-coloured pixels enclosing both a changing room and an impromptu rehearsal space, which in the rendering features the Quintette du Hot Club de France.
  • The Booky Nook – jazzy shelving infilled with waterproof books for privacy arranged into four sides and a roof, with a fold-down wall and enough seating for a small book club clearly not discussing bestsellers. Louis Armstrong’s in the distance, blowing his horn on a lilo.    
  • The Torquey: a jazzodesic dome twisted into a high nanocastle to give a superior height and status within beach society, featuring Duke Ellington on piano.
  • The Who Do You Think You Are Jazzing Mr Hitler – a perforated tin hut with Glenn Miller disappearing into it.
  • The Permajazz – a two-storey beach hut modelled on a classic plumbed-in buy-to-let beachside residence, having all the advantages of being on a beach for a fortnight but with title deeds that have somehow been fast-tracked through the planning system by consultant ‘jazzhandlers’. Oh look, Michael Bublé, and he’s brought chips.
  • The Beachbore – a section of concrete pipe closed at one end with jazzy slatted saloon doors at the other resembling those on a clothes shop’s fitting room; jazzy spaces within for ‘changing’ and more importantly for ‘growing’. Ignore tetchy old Miles Davis in the beach hut next door, he’s just had a load of heroin and will be purring like a cat in about 10 minutes.

FRIDAY Day off. Stare into space, refusing to reimagine it.

SATURDAY Five-a-zeitgeist clone football. Optioned 2, Uptioned 3. Pitch delayed due to 3-D printing error.  

SUNDAY Feet-uptioned reclinement.

An anthology of Ian’s AJ columns will be published this year: https://unbound.co.uk/books/epic-space

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